When people think of stately homes, they imagine the sprawling noble estates in England, like the Chatsworth of the Devonshires or Althorp, Lady Diana’s childhood home. However, America has its own grand manor—the Biltmore Estate, built by one of the country’s most illustrious families.
With 250 rooms and 75 acres of lush gardens, the Biltmore Estate is as steeped in story as any other grand manor across the world. Take a look at the wonders of America’s largest private-owned mansion.
The Story of Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate was the brainchild of George Vanderbilt, the grandson of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt. As an eligible bachelor, he was looking for the perfect place for a country home. When he visited Asheville, North Carolina, the community captured his imagination. And so began his plans to build a grand estate.
In 1889, the construction of a mansion began. It was hardly just a mansion, however. It was a French Renaissance chateau, more a castle than a cozy country home. During its time, it was the most significant undertaking in residential architecture. The project brought together the greatest contractors and designers in America.
Vanderbilt officially opened the Biltmore on the Christmas Eve of 1985 to his family and friends. Construction took six years, but the results are splendid. The chateau had 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.
It wasn’t long until the Estate had a mistress. In 1898, George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, a descendant of the first governor of Dutch colonial New York. The following year, the couple’s only child, Cornelia, was born in the house. Years later, Cornelia would also get married in the Biltmore Village Church and give birth to her children at Biltmore Estate.
The Lush Gardens and Antler Village
The estate flourished with the family. The grounds were home to spectacular gardens and woodlands, where family, friends, and eventually tourists can enjoy strolls. Alongside beautiful flowers and manicured lawns were glassy ponds and conservatories that house world-class orchid collections.
These gardens then fade into a woodland garden, which is seamlessly connected to the gardens—no aluminum fence panels or huge plastic signs that signal the transition. It might seem like a wilderness. But this vast lot, filled with mountain laurel, redwood, azalea, and oak, is a strategically designed garden.
The Role of Biltmore Estate in the Community
Even if the Biltmore Estate was built to be a home, it did not remain exclusive to the family. It played a significant role during times of uncertainty.
In 1930, Cornelia and her husband John Cecil opened their private residence to the public to boost tourism in their area during the Great Depression. It also helped generate income to preserve the estate. The chateau was large enough that it can accommodate bustling tourists while the Vanderbilts lived comfortably in separate private quarters.
The house is also integral to safeguarding art during World War II. Priceless pieces from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., were stored in the estate to prevent damage.
The Biltmore Estate remains open for visitors, so people from anywhere in the world can marvel at this architectural feat and listen to the heart-warming stories of the people who once lived there. The house is more than just a pretty building—it is a historical landmark that represents the generosity of its owners and the glory of the era to which it belonged.